5 Ways Colorado’s Culinary Scene Helps Define Meetings
Photos: Cooking School of Aspen, The Broadmoor's bakery by Beth Buehler, The Source Hotel + Market Hall, Farm Fusion, Infinite Monkey Theorem by Molly Stevenson, Ginger and Baker by Andrew Woerpel/Visit Fort Collins, Snowmass Wine Festival, Marble Distilling Co., The Fort Restaurant
Find additional ideas and information about iconic places for a Colorado meeting and search for meeting venues by region or statewide.
By Beth Buehler
With more and more people being plugged into the food scene and having various dietary needs, the culinary element of any meeting or event demands more consideration than ever. Not only are quality and ingredients in the spotlight, food and beverage are a big part of the overall experience.
Whether gathering at a hotel or restaurant, tapping the talents of a catering company or booking a cooking class for team-building, there is no shortage of great options in Colorado. Plus, there are great nontraditional venues to enhance itinerary items that involve dining and drinking, including an impressive range of wineries, breweries and distilleries that have tasting rooms and event spaces.
Here are five tips for utilizing Colorado’s culinary landscape to help make your next meeting stand out from the crowd.
Farmers’ markets held across the state in summer and fall are perfect places to meet the people who raise the produce and livestock, make the jams and jerkies, and roast the chilies. Colorado also has attracted its fair share of visionary distillers, brewers and vintners who are eager to share the stories behind the tastes.
But what if the timing of your meeting doesn’t overlap with local farmers’ markets? Properties like Hotel Madeline & Residences in Telluride have been known to create a farmers' market setting for an outdoor reception. Add some appetizers made from local foods and invite the local breweries and distilleries to create a magical and tasty evening.
Also, a variety of Colorado chefs are willing to visit farmers’ markets to join attendees in selecting ingredients for a meal, cooking demonstration or hands-on culinary class. What a perfect team-building opportunity: shop a market, challenge your co-workers, team up with chefs and create dishes to share!
Some of the easiest places to meet the makers are at the nearly 200 craft breweries, 100-plus wineries and 40 distilleries that call Colorado home. For example, small groups can stay, meet and celebrate at Two Rivers Winery & Chateau in Grand Junction or larger groups can do a tasting and reception with the vineyard as a backdrop.
Schedule a meeting at The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver, the first winery to can wine, and wrap up with a toast or a blending trial to craft a custom wine from up to four IMT favorites. Also consider IMT’s tasting locations in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace and Fort Collin’s new Exchange, a cuisine, cocktail and entertainment venue created from shipping containers that surround an outdoor courtyard.
Big names like MillerCoors in Golden and Budweiser in Fort Collins along with craft breweries offer tours and tastes, and the Brewhop Trolley in Longmont makes it easy to visit several in a few hours. Or hop on bikes and ride from brewery to brewery in a variety of communities.
Remember when every hotel restaurant, lobby and banquet meal used to look the same? Hallelujah that this is no longer the case, especially in Colorado.
The Broadmoor, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star resort in Colorado Springs, makes nearly all if its delicious breads and pastries in-house, has a chocolatier on staff and features a AAA Five Diamond restaurant, The Penrose Room.
Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel sends its executive chef, sous chef and food and beverage director on exploratory missions to attend events like the Palisade Peach Festival and visit cheese makers, jam producers and sweet corn farms on Colorado’s Western Slope to find the best products available.
The Source Hotel + Market Hall opened last fall and is home to New Belgium Brewing Company’s first Denver small-batch brewery. At the heart of the lobby experience, guests check in a few feet away from where a 10-barrel system produces beers featured on a constantly rotating tap list served at the rooftop Woods bar and restaurant. There are two other restaurants at the hotel and a collection of experiential, craft-focused Denver vendors plus the original Source market hall only steps away.
There is something about cooking together, whether it’s as a family or a team from work. Following recipes, sharing traditions and having a little friendly competition is a great way to entertain and team-build at the same time.
Cooking School of Aspen has a 3,000-square-feet space in the heart of downtown Aspen and presents all sorts of hands-on cooking, demonstration and tasting classes for individuals and groups of 10 to 120. The chef instructor might be one of the school’s culinary team members, a local chef or a celebrity chef. Cooking School of Aspen also has event space, offers weekly farm-to-table dinners in the summer, and hosts occasional Science of Cooking classes and Late Night Food Fights.
Chef Casey Easton started her career in natural foods, opened Food Lab cooking studio in Boulder and has created a large menu of classes ranging from hands-on cooking and wine-pairing classes to Iron Chef-style competitions. Classes for up to 25 participants can be held and customized for groups.
In Fort Collins, Farm Fusion is a popular Fort Collins food truck that recently expanded and now offers classes in its teaching kitchen located in a red barn nestled between two lakes on a working ranch. Make three types of cheese at the “Oh La La, Cheese Please” class or book “Yoga and Yakitori,” which starts with a relaxing at a lakeside yoga session followed by making a four-course meal. Ginger and Baker—located in a historic mill and known for delectable pies, market foods and more—hosts classes with guided tastings each month on topics like French macaroons, vintage recipes and cooking with whiskey.
Local destination marketing organizations can help guide the process when planning a progressive dining experience, especially in walkable downtowns or neighborhood districts. Two other great ways to sample a broad selection of local fare are festivals and organized food and beverage tours.
Let someone who knows the local food scene well do the work. More and more food tour companies are sprouting up with great options to sample the F&B scene in foodie communities like Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Grand Junction, Vail and Telluride.
With all the great chefs and foods raised in Colorado, it’s no big surprise that there are also all sorts of celebrations like the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival in Olathe, Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco, Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, and Slow Food Nations and Taste of Colorado in Denver. Schedule a gathering in tandem with one of these local events for easy entertainment outside of meeting time or in conjunction with food and wine festivals in mountain towns like Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Crested Butte and Snowmass.
When is dining an experience? In Colorado it can be colorful fish playfully darting around inside aquarium “walls” nearby, dishes from days gone by in a replica fort setting, breakfast with views at the Colorado National Monument and hiking, snowshoeing or skiing to a yurt for dinner.
At Downtown Aquarium in Denver, dine surrounded by the restaurant’s 50,000-gallon centerpiece aquarium filled with more than 100 species of colorful, tropical fish. In nearby Morrison, The Fort Restaurant’s menu features beef, buffalo, game and seafood and a tantalizing selection of foods from the early West. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Fort has reintroduced foods from the 1800s and creates current trends of its own like buffalo empanadas.
Elsewhere, get a taste of the bounty raised in the Grand Valley during breakfasts for groups prepared by chefs from Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction on top of the nearby Colorado National Monument or work up an appetite by hiking, snowshoeing or skiing to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse near Leadville. A mile-long trek through the forest leads to a warm yurt and four-course candlelight dinner.
This is just a sampling of how Colorado’s delectable culinary landscape can be integrated into meetings that are sure to receive Five Star reviews from attendees.